Why should the warehouse be managed by software, not people
The correct type of goods, in the required quantity and quality, at the right time and place. Unfortunately, it has become standard practice that one of these elements does not work these days. The demands for productivity improvements continue to mount. The cost of acquiring additional warehouses, if they are available at all, is multiplying. Nevertheless, many warehouses still use simple inventory, with warehouse workers wondering where to place the pallet. Any management relies on long-serving employees, and it takes several weeks to train new ones.
An advanced Warehouse Management System (WMS) manages all users and stocks in the warehouse. It governs processes from incoming to dispatch without any manual intervention. It operates in the background. When employees arrive at work, they pick up a terminal or headset and start working straight away. The system tells them where to go and what to do. No one has to run orders, downtime disappears, the number of errors is reduced and productivity increases.
A warehouse without a WMS must use elementary processes because managing complex procedures without software is challenging, and you cannot be 100% sure.
From incoming to dispatch
Incoming is the most crucial task in a system-controlled warehouse. Its objective is quality. To stock goods in the correct quality, quantity and traceability are not easy. Operators must resolve any discrepancies at the incoming before the stock is entered into the WMS. Such issues may include expired goods, production inputs blocked for approval by the quality manager, missing EAN codes, incorrect dimensions of newly received items, etc… By eliminating errors at the incoming, you eliminate errors at picking and dispatch.
WMS-assisted stocking of goods is automatic. The system recognises individual products, their turnover, dimensions, volume, weight, their picking point and how high the pallet is, so there are no vacant spaces. Using all the information, it decides to place the item in, for example, the back aisle or the highest picking spot, knowing that it will remain there for at least a month. On the other hand, people tend to stock the goods in the first storage location, and they are not driven to load the shelves to the maximum in terms of volume and weight.
The WMS maintains a detailed overview of inventory and can handle all types of inventories as standard. Thus, you can perform an inventory for only one item, a specific batch, or a particular zone.
The goods dispatch must be as productive as possible, without the warehouse workers having to check what they are picking. Having goods checked after picking is preferable because even seconds count nowadays. If there are 1000 warehouse workers on a shift and picking saves everyone a few seconds, the warehouse will ultimately save a lot of money. If necessary, the warehouse workers won’t even know what type of goods they pick or for whom.
Integrating into external systems such as ERP, TMS, dock management, picking applications, systems managing robotics, or conveyor belts is a given. For example, when connected to a TMS, the system can manage loading and dispatch docks or print dispatch documents according to the carrier’s requirements.
An advanced WMS should
✓ Be versatile (parameterisable) and adaptable. There is a big difference if you store food, furniture or electronics. Each item requires different handling. There are systems available on the market designed for one particular way of working; however, even they should be adaptable to other requirements without having to pay for complex modifications. Having a system in place where you switch just a few parameters to set up an entirely different picking strategy saves a lot of work and money.
✓ Be easy to use by management, long-time employees and newcomers alike to ensure that training takes a few hours literally. Optimally, the system should communicate with operators in their native language, guide operators through the process, and let everyone know where to click in the mobile app. If an operator does something wrong, they need to know immediately what it was and how to fix it.
✓ Be connectable to external software and technologies, such as automatic stackers or conveyor belts.
✓ Comply with legislative requirements depending on the goods it handles. Whether that involves monitoring expiry dates for foodstuffs, batches for alcohol or traceability for tobacco products.
✓ Support different picking methods: using voice, pick by light, distribution, cross-dock, pick then pack…
✓ Handle e-commerce processes, both B2B and B2C.
How to master the tendering process
Your first step is to specify your requirements and preferences. Do you require an on-premise or cloud solution? Does SAAS or a bespoke solution suit you? Will you purchase new Android readers or a solution based on your existing equipment? What are your requirements for the modifiability and scalability of the solution? What are the operational parameters, i. e., how many orders will the WMS process, and how many people will be working at the warehouse simultaneously? Does your warehouse run on three shifts? Are you managing several warehouses at the same time? What are your security requirements for data tracking?
Consecutively, you should address the process requirements. Do you need to manage orders? Do you need to manage a specific wave of orders during the picking process, which you mark down in one go? Do you require being able to handle the order by the customer as well? Do you need to consolidate orders for the same customers within the same run? What is the process flow? What does a happy process look like? How do you handle non-standard situations or corrections, such as correcting an incoming order or a picked item, when you realise someone has forgotten to put an item in? Do you want to optimise your existing processes?
Don’t just look for software; look for a partner. Does the WMS provider offer active references? Can they actually arrange a reference visit? How experienced is the team that will be responsible for your project? How do they handle support? Who are their subcontractors?
What are the implementation details to consider
Consider in advance how you will involve operation, business and project managers in the implementation, not just the IT department. Involve everyone from the start, so they are prepared for change. During testing and piloting, you should troubleshoot as many errors as possible. Don’t skip acceptance testing, especially its most critical points, as the most significant mistakes tend to occur at this stage.
Once the production phase is over, move on to support. You should know in advance who you will communicate with and how you will report because users need to understand precisely how to report to support.
Also, prepare your data in advance. The provider should tell you what data they need and when. These are mainly: warehouse maps, logistics data, third-party data, user data, equipment and technologies. Don’t underestimate internal communication explaining what people can look forward to, the system’s benefits, why you are implementing it and what you will achieve with the new system.
WMS by Sluno
Unlike other WMSs, our system is not limited by size or the number of storage locations. Our biggest customer ships 12,000 pallets per day without any problems. On the other hand, our smallest customer operates a total of 7,000 m2 of storage space. We have not encountered an industry where our WMS could not be implemented.
We use a WMS that offers a wide range of parameterisation options. Therefore, we can handle many of our customers’ requirements based on the settings, and we don’t need to develop every single one. On the other hand, if required, we can access the code and tailor-modify it. Some of our customers use standard versions of the WMS, while others have so many modifications that they can’t be counted. We also support 3PL logistics.